Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Illinois

Will vs. beneficiary

My wife is beneficiary of her father's bank accounts, CD's, etc., and these assets are his only assets. He is still living, but in his 80's. He has a will that gives specified amounts to various family members. But the only source of funds is the money in his bank accounts. What happens here when he dies? Does the will supercede the beneficiary status, or is the benficiary status higher. If the beneficiary status is higher, what happens when the will is probated, and there is no money, since it all went to the beneficiary? Is my wife suddenly on the ''hook'' to honor the will's intent? If this happens, the awards in the will will effectively wipe out all the money.

Asked on 6/06/05, 1:13 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Re: Will vs. beneficiary

If a person is listed as a beneficiary or as a joint tenant on an account, the account is generally not an asset of the probate estate. However, if the estate is subject to estate taxes (over $1,5000,000 in 2005) such joint accounts may have to be reported as assets on the estate tax return.

Persons who are listed as beneficiaries of assets such as retirement accounts, annuities, insurance policies, etc., are generally not responsible for the debts of the estate, and are not expected to "give up" their assets to other beneficiaries who may be named in the will.

This answer is based on your posted information. Given the above, there could be information that you have not revealed that would change my response to your question. Therefore, it is always best to have an attorney review your situation with all of the documents in front of him/her so you can have a complete and accurate answer based on all the specifics.

Good luck to you.

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Answered on 6/06/05, 1:49 pm

Jay Pollak The Pollak Law Firm, LLC

Re: Will vs. beneficiary

Assuming you are correct, that is, that your wife is in fact the surviving joint tenant or is in some other capacity that she will receive the balance in all accounts, then when he dies your wife will receive all the funds. And since there are no assets to be probated there should be no probate. Your wife is NOT on the hook to honor the will. The contracts your father-in-law has with the bank for each account CD etc. supercedes the will. The only reason for probate would be to challange your wife's standing with each account.

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Answered on 6/06/05, 1:52 pm

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